Over the last 10 years, Maquoketa Valley Electric Cooperative (MVEC) has been able to reduce its outage hours by 37% using technology. Many of the cooperative’s systems have been in place for more than a decade, but recent efforts to integrate data from its supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system, advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), outage management system (OMS), geographical information system (GIS) and customer information system (CIS) have resulted in service reliability.

MVEC serves 16,000 member-consumers in a 4,500-sq mile (11,655-sq km) service territory. The consumers are served from 37 substations and through 3,300 miles (5,311 km) of distribution line, of which 95% is overhead.

Proactive Instead of Reactive

Historically, electric utilities have been reactive to issues after consumers complain. From power-quality issues to high bill complaints, utilities often have been unaware of a problem until they received a phone call about it.

Technology is helping utilities to turn reactive responses into proactive analyses. With more sensors installed on power lines every day, the challenge becomes this: How does a utility take the data that is coming back and make it useful? These sensors come in the form of more intelligent breakers at substations, in-line devices that provide communications back to the office, two-way electric meters and more.

Each sensor is capable of adding data to a database, so the data starts adding up quickly. MVEC collects more than 110 million data points per year from SCADA and AMI. All of this data does nothing to help utilities operationally if it is not used. So, how do utilities start to make the data work for them?